Sibling Rivalry: The Importance of Consistent and Loving Limits

Sibling Rivalry: The Importance of Consistent and Loving Limits

Although sibling rivalry is normal, it seems to have become more intense recently, possibly due to the stresses families have experienced during the past few years. It can be a baffling and frustrating problem for parents if they don’t have the necessary mindset and tools to deal with it.

When it comes to sibling conflict, it’s common for all of us to focus on the wrong problem—their relationship with each other rather than our relationship with them. Healthy parent-child relationships are characterized by two things. First, the child feels unconditionally loved. Second, the child sees the parents as the undisputed authority figures in the home.

People who care enough to study Love and Logic materials, such as this tip, rarely have an issue with the “love” part of this equation. It comes naturally! The part they struggle with, and the part I also struggled with, is the authority part.

Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that when we provide strong leadership, not just friendship, we see:

  • Happier kids who tend to get along far better with us.
  • More secure kids who have fewer conflicts with each other.
  • Kids who respect us enough to stop arguing with each other when we ask, “Guys? Will you stop that, please?”
  • When we display relational weakness, chronic sibling conflict is a sure result.
Kids almost always fight with each other more
when they lack consistent and loving limits.

Too frequently, all of us slip into the habit of addressing symptoms rather than core causes. When we do so, we find ourselves endlessly spinning our wheels, dealing with recurring symptoms, as well as ones that continuously erupt in new and unpredictable ways. Real and lasting solutions to recurring family issues involve taking strategic steps toward reestablishing loving authority in the home and establishing firm limits.

The first step involves asking the following questions:

  • Are we setting enough limits that we can actually enforce?
  • Are we enforcing these limits with empathy and logical consequences rather than trying to do so with empty threats and lectures?
  • Are the kids able to manipulate us, their parents, against each other?
  • Are we trying too hard to be their friends rather than focusing on remaining friendly authority figures?

Setting and enforcing limits with a healthy dose of empathy is essential for being able to handle the conflicts that arise between siblings. For more insight into sibling rivalry, listen to our audio, Sibling Rivalry: Strategies for Teaching Your Kids How to Get Along.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

angry siblings staring at each other

Back to blog